We're three days away from Opening Day, so it's time to start previewing the season. Inspired by an old feature on The Black Table, we're going team-by-team and distributing Four Things You Don't Know about them. If you have suggested oddities on your team, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Today: The Washington Nationals.
• 1. They Have The Worst Mascot In Sports. Screech the Eagle. He/she/it kinda looks like an oversized marshmallow Peep. And shares a name with Dustin Diamond from Saved By the Bell. And drives around town in a Zipcar. And makes us all want to kind of die inside. It all actually inspired a chat with Dustin Diamond about the "hatching" of the mascot. That's right, it was hatched from a giant egg behind second base, bringing up recurring nightmares for anybody who remembered the Gobbledygooker from WWF's Survivor Series back in the day. Then again, this IS the franchise that once had Youppi!, sooo... — (Thanks to Matt DeTura).
• 2. Call Him Brother Sledge, A Name That Will Live Forever. The first pitch in Nationals history was techincally thrown by President George W. Bush, in a pregame ceremony at their opener. But that's not important right now. What is important is that the team's first-ever home run was recorded by outfielder Terrmel Sledge, also on opening day. Generations of Nationals fans shall know that name.
• 3. Hey Look, It's John Wetteland!. The all-time leader in saves for the Texas Rangers is now the Nationals' bullpen coach. And what better person to take an impressionable young ballplayer under his wing? Wetteland, in addition to being known for wearing the same cap for the entire season during his playing days, is also a former satanist (he had a tattoo and everything) and current born-again Christian.
• 4. The Billy Ball Connection. Nationals pitcher Tony Armas Jr. is the son of Tony Armas, an outfielder for the Oakland A's in the 1980s. Also playing for Oakland during that time were current Nationals batting coach Mitchell Page (A's, 1977-'83), and Nationals first base coach Davey Lopes (A's, 1982-'84). The three were A's teammates in 1982 under manager Billy Martin.
(Tomorrow: the San Diego Padres)